I have always been a critic of President Donald Trump’s “fake news” mantra, which is often directed at stories that are true but embarrassing. However, that does not mean that new media allows the rapid spread of false stories — stories that are quickly replicated and repeated across the blogosphere. An example of this problem arose recently when MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance tweeted that Fox News would not air the hearing today with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller because Trump is “afraid” what Mueller will say. That is entirely untrue but the story quickly spread with people like author Stephen King picking up the thread and spreading it to millions. I have had the pleasure of appearing with Vance. While we sometimes disagree, I have great respect for her and her experience as an attorney. The tweet was a mistake but it is the aftermath that is a chilling insight on how fast things spread on our web-based news platforms.
Vance told her twitter following that “Fox isn’t showing Mueller’s testimony Wednesday. Trump is afraid of what will happen if his base gets to hear Mueller’s testimony for themselves.” The former U.S. Attorney was widely criticized and later claimed that it was a joke. Some questioned how the tweet could be construed as a joke and eventually she deleted the tweet.
However, it was too late. King got the word out to his 5.3 millions followers:
Others like Los Angeles Times columnist David Lazarus, MSNBC guest Rick Wilson, former Rep. Donna Edwards and others repeated the false story in interviews.
The story is obviously damaging when viewers are told that Fox will not be covering the huge hearing. Yet, the fact is that it was a mistaken tweet and people are going overboard in their attacks on Vance. Everyone has tweets that they wish they could take back, including the President of the United States. Vance did the right thing in pulling the tweet. My interest is how this single tweet quickly became irreversible in social media and on television. People are looking for good or bad stories about Fox or Trump. As soon as they see one, they run with the tweet or story. We can all fall victim to such impulses. This is a case in point.